Lawyers Discuss Designation of Terrorist Organizations

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LAWYERS DISCUSS DESIGNATION OF TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 requires the secretary of state to compile every two years a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). The consequences for organizations receiving such a designation are that their members and representatives become ineligible for U.S. visas, U.S. financial institutions are required to block their funds, and it becomes a criminal offense for American citizens to provide them with material support or resources.

The second and most recent list of FTOs, published Oct. 8, 1999, comprises 28 organizations, exactly half of which are Muslim and/or Arab, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Two Jewish/Israeli groups, Kach and Kahane Chai, also are on the list.

The Foreign and International Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers' Association sponsored a Dec. 4 forum on "Designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations: The Impact on Foreign Policy, International Law and Constitutional Law." Prof. Malvina Halberstam of the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law moderated the discussion.

Steven Kashkett, of the U.S. State Department's Office of Counter-Terrorism, and Thomas Byron, appellate staff attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, defended the government position. Both said they were speaking without attribution and expressing their own views, not the government's.

Although the State Department has been accused of making arbitrary choices, Kashkett said the process of determining whether an organization is a terrorist threat to U.S. interests takes from three to six months. It involves input, he said, from the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice, the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community and U.S. embassies abroad. The primary goal is to shut off the organizations' funding but, Kashkett said, there also are intangible benefits. When the U.S. publicly identifies organizations as terrorist, they are stigmatized in the eyes of foreign governments, the media, and domestic humanitarian and financial institutions. …

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